Leinster and Ireland prop Cian Healy has rediscovered his best form in 2018 after claiming a hat-trick of medals but he still remembers one game early in his career that served as a massive learning experience.
The 31-year-old won a Six Nations Grand Slam, the Champions Cup and the PRO 14 in a fairy tale 2017/18 campaign, and has started the current season in strong form.
Healy is in line to face Argentina and the All Blacks over the next two weekends as Ireland continue their preparation towards the 2019 World Cup, with the powerful loosehead one of the country’s key men.
Healy has been one of Ireland’s best players since bursting on the scene over ten years ago, but recalls one tough early experience that helped him develop as a prop.
After winning the Heineken Cup in 2009, Leinster travelled to France for a daunting test against Toulouse in the semi-final the following year, with Healy chosen to wear the number one jersey.
However, the youngster was taken off by head coach Michael Cheika after just 30 minutes, with the Toulouse scrum causing Leinster all sorts of problems.
Speaking on the Left Wing, Independent.ie’s rugby podcast, Healy acknowledged that that match was a ‘dark’ day in his career.
“That cut deep,” he said.
“I was only talking to Fogs [Leinster assistant coach John Fogarty] a couple of weeks ago when we were back over there in Toulouse. I was like, ‘Jesus, that was a dark game’. I came back on after sixty minutes or so and did alright but when you are a young prop getting called off, it’s a pain in your head.
“I was getting crucified [in the scrum].”
Healy said that although he has had similarly tough days in the scrum at other times during his career, it was Cheika’s decision to substitute him in the first half that stung the most.
“I’ve been dealt worse days but it was getting hauled off early that cuts you,” Healy added.
“They are hauling you off and saying ‘this fella’s better than you and he will do a better job’. They are not even letting you figure it out. I was in a red mist after that one.”
“Those lessons teach you a lot about ‘sink or swim’,” he continued.
“In the front row, you can stay in the fight and go back a bit and completely capitulate. It’s hard to understand if you haven’t done it. Having been in there, it’s a difficult one to stay in there and do something correct when you are getting motored backwards.”
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